Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have found that male hormones play a key role in promoting a specific genetic change that fuels the growth of tumours.
Identifying the genes that are regulated by these hormones is a major step forward in finding new therapies for the disease, which kills one man every hour in the UK.
The study focused on androgen hormones and their influence on fusing together genes.
These mutant genes, which have been found in several cancers, form when DNA from different parts of the genetic region of cells merge.
Lead researcher Dr Yong-Jie Lu said: "This is a significant discovery and a major breakthrough in the future prevention of the disease. It could also lead to new treatments."